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Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have already been asking people with serious illnesses and disabilities why they have not committed suicide - now the DWP has proposed changes to benefits that could nudge claimants into it.

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have already been asking people with serious illnesses and disabilities why they have not committed suicide – now the DWP has proposed changes to benefits that could nudge claimants into it.

A plan to cut £30 per week from the benefit of some of the UK’s most vulnerable people was being considered before the general election – and may be announced by George Osborne next week.

According to the BBC, the Department for Work and Pensions has been proposing to abolish the Work-Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance, meaning a £30 cut in benefit every week for people who would have been put in that category.

This would bring payments in line with Jobseekers’ Allowance. It seems the stated reason is to give people less reason to worry that they are getting the “wrong” outcome from the infamous work capability assessments that are a mandatory part of claiming the benefit.

The paper also proposes renaming the assessment tests “employment capability assessments”, in order to focus attention on job-seeking rather than benefit-seeking.

There is so much wrong with this plan that it is hard to know where to start – and even more reasons to find fault with the BBC’s report.

For a start, the £30 extra that WRA Group members of the ESA receive is not a “top-up”, as described in the BBC report (and, one suspects, in the leaked DWP document); it is the amount that the law says sick people who are preparing to return to work should receive.

If a work capability assessment leads to a false report about a claimant’s condition, it will be wrong no matter what amount of benefit would be paid to the claimant afterwards.

This is fraud – obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception – and would still be fraud if the amount of money paid in the WRAG was the same as that paid on JSA because the conditions of the benefits are different. JSA claimants are forced to carry out many (pointless) activities every week in order to satisfy jobseeking requirements – most, if not all, of which would be beyond the abilities of people who are sick but have wrongly been forced off the benefit they need. They would then be forced off JSA – and we would be looking at another chequebook euthanasia situation.

But don’t worry – the government has deniability! If people can’t survive because they have been pushed off-benefit, and decide to take their own lives in order to gain release from the misery… that’s their own decision, isn’t it? It’s nothing to do with the government lying about them!

At least, that’s the line that Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP will take.

Interestingly, the stated reason for re-naming work capability assessments is that they currently focus on what claimants can’t do, rather than what they can. This is not true.

Anyone who has followed the degenerate progress of Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms will be able to present a list of silly claims made by assessors to support their assertion that a sick claimant is “fit for work”. The classic is the person who, despite being severely disabled, was able to press a button. Just that – nothing else. “Fit for work”.

And that’s focusing on what the claimant can’t do?

The BBC wheels out Charlie Pickles (who?) from Tory think tank Reform, to explain why the toffs think stealing more money from the sick is a good idea.

According to the BBC, he said the current system encourages people to stay on the benefit rather than finding work.

There seems to be a word missing here. Let’s put it back in and see how it reads:

“The current system encourages sick people to stay on the benefit rather than finding work.”

Why shouldn’t it?

If a person is sick, they shouldn’t be asked to go to work.

Finally, where are the jobs?

Pickles prattles: “We have a huge gap between disabled people’s employment rate and non-disabled people’s employment rate.” Perhaps that’s to do with the fact that the Tories closed Remploy (the organisation that employed disabled people) during the Coalition Government and has not provided any incentives for other employers to take on workers with extra needs.

Clearly Pickles hadn’t thought of that. This Reform ‘think tank’ of his can’t be much cop.

But then, neither is the DWP’s plan.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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